Glossary of helpful words when visiting Cambodia and the temples of Angkor
Anastylosis Archaeological technique used in reconstructing the temples ruins by dismantling and then rebuilding. This technique was used on Banteay Samre, Prasat Kravan, Thommanon and many other temples.
Angkor Angkor refers to the capital city of the Khmer Empire that existed in the area of Cambodia between the 9th and 12th centuries CE, as well as to the empire itself.
Apsara Mythological a celestial nymph. Devatas (standing female divinities), though technically different, are also referred to as apsaras in this guide. Carved in abundance on many of the temples.
Banteay (Khmer) ‘fortress’ or ‘citadel’. Though not a technical designation, it often indicates a monastic complex or flat temple style.
Baray (Khmer) A ‘baray’ is a water reservoir – an area of landwhere dikes have been raised to catch and hold water. Beginning in the 9th century, the construction of massive barays and other such grand projects became one of the marks of Angkorian kingship. There are four major barays in the Park area. When the barays wereconstructed, an island temple was set at the center of each.
Boeung (Khmer) ‘lake’. Also spelled ‘beng’.
Champa Neighboring Indianised state, contemporary with Angkor. Located in the area of south central Vietnam.
Corbel arch False arch made from placing tiered, progressively projecting corbels on opposite walls. Used throughout Angkorian era construction.
Gopura The entrance-way or gate in the wall that surrounds a temple.
Khmer The dominant ethnic group and the language of ancient and modern Cambodia.
Linga A phallic symbol, representative of the god Shiva.
Lintel The sandstone block above doorways and windows, often intricately carved.
Monastic complex General term referring to a temple that has a relatively flat, sometimes sprawling architectural layout. It may employ towers, but set at ground level, e.g.: Ta Prohm, Preah Khan, Banteay Kdei.
Naga Mythological, multi-headed snake/serpent. Naga motifs are often used in balustrades.
Phnom (Khmer) ‘hill’ or ‘mountain’.
Prasat (Khmer) ‘tower’.
Preah (Khmer) ‘sacred’.
Reamker Khmer telling of the Ramayana, a classic and much loved epic tale from Hindu mythology – the adventures of Rama in his quest to save his kidnapped wife, Sita, from Ravana. Images from the Ramayana are carved on many temples including Angkor Wat, and traditional dance performances in Siem Reap often incorporate stories from the Ramayana.
Shiva One of the three primary gods of the Hindu trinity. The ‘destroyer’. Central to the Angkor royal linga cult. Often represented in the form of a linga.
Stele Inscribed stone tablet.
Stung (Khmer) ‘river’
Temple-mountain A specific architectural design based on the mythological mountain, Mt. Meru. Eg: Pre Rup, Ta Keo, Bakong.
Thom (Khmer) ‘big,’ e.g. Angkor Thom
-varman (Khmer) ‘protected by’. The suffix attached to the names of Khmer kings, e.g.: Suryavarman, Jayavarman.
Vihear (Khmer) Main temple building of a Buddhist pagoda or temple group. Houses the Buddha image.
Vishnu One of the three primary gods of the Hindu trinity. The ‘protector’.
Wat Modern Buddhist pagoda or temple.